Product Friction is your Enemy


Written by Yaron Ismah-Moshe

Jul 18, 2018

Any company designing a product for customer-use knows that there are constant revisions taking place. Learning what customers like and don’t like is vital to a product’s success. One success indicator of creating a great product is analyzing how low your product friction is. But how can you identify these friction points correctly?

Product friction prevents your users from completing the onboarding process, may lead them to decide not to login again, increase churn rate or worse – possibly speak unfavorably about your product.

Product friction is anything that acts as a barrier to user adoption or retention. Your idea could be the best, but if your product isn’t easy to use, you might alienate a potential user from using it.

Types of Product Friction

There are two categories of product friction to be aware of when designing and monitoring your product.

      1. The first time user experience is mainly related to the onboarding process and the first use of the application. In this case, you should aim to minimize the learning curve as much as possible. First-time user experience should be to the point as there is no second chance for a first impression.
    1. For users who are already using your product, design against friction is in their ease of doing things. How many clicks does it take to perform common operations? Can it be reduced to a single click? Are they struggling with navigation of the system? Do they find the metrics they care about right in front of them or do they have to search to find them?

Anticipate Friction Points in your Product

Here is what worked for us at to anticipate our friction points and the actions we took to overcome them:

      1. Think like your users – When designing your product you should be thinking what the user cares about? What does she expect to see? How convenient will it be for him to perform his most common tasks? For example, the users of our product are Sales Development Reps (SDRs). Sales people don’t have the time or energy to log into multiple systems. Therefore, we provided them with a way to communicate with our AI product via email. This is a classic solution where many users experience  product friction – our users don’t have to learn a new system and they can perform activities directly from their inbox.

      2. Monitor customer journeys – Detect friction points by monitoring your customer’s journey within the product. There are plenty of tools out there such as Hotjar and Inspectlet to monitor user activities on mobile and web. Pay attention to first time users and detect where they struggle, how much time it takes them to complete a task, and what you could do better to make their work more efficient.
      1. Talk to your customers –  Ask them what product improvements they would like to see.. It obviously depends where you are within your product lifecycle, but talking to your customers is key for reducing product friction and making your product better to keep your customers happy. This can be done in the form of a short call, a survey, or using a customer engagement tool such as Intercom. Take a look on the great blog post about How to talk to a customer when selling or gathering product feedback.
      1. Monitor for end-user errors – Make sure you detect any error on the client’s side. Whether your clients are on web or mobile, you have to have the option to see if your customers get stuck in one journey and if they are using an alternate, potentially inconvenient route.
    1. A/B test –  Sometimes your customers won’t be able to tell you exactly what you should improve in order to reduce friction. So, A/B test it. For instance, if you are not sure where to place a specific button, embed it in both places and see which option your customers choose to use the most. This will indicate which button has higher friction.

Building a great product is a never-ending process. Ensuring your consumers have as little friction as possible requires a lot of effort to perform the five points above, but these steps are the key to your product virality, adoption, lower churn rate and customer satisfaction.

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